By Liana Jacob
THIS MAN WAS MORTIFIED after being turned away from a ride at Peppa Pig World due to his size spurring him to lose HALF of his bodyweight.
Consultant and team developer, Ryan Lightfoot (25), from Essex, UK, grew up being bullied about his weight and was always referred to as ‘the fat one’. These comments made him feel insecure and he was caught in a circle of comfort eating, consuming around 6,000 calories a day, which resulted in his peak weight of 27st 3Ibs and UK size XXXXXL.
In July 2016, when he went to Paulton’s Park (Peppa Pig World) with his niece Ruby, they were queuing for a ride but when he sat in the seat and pulled the harness down, it wouldn’t click into place. A couple of ride hosts vigorously attempted to force it down but they didn’t succeed and they had to ask him to leave the ride.
This experience triggered Ryan to join Slimming World, particularly so that his niece could be proud of him. Following a strict diet and exercise plan, Ryan managed to shrink to a healthy 14st 7Ibs and UK size small and consumes an average 2,200 calories a day.
During one of his Slimming World groups, he met his former bully and his mum, who happened to be a consultant. Taking the high road, he shook his hand and asked how he was, but his bully didn’t recognise him.
“I have always been a stereotypical big guy, I seemed chipper and bubbly but behind the laughs was sorrow and depression,” Ryan said.
“I would eat because I was sad, and I was sad because I was eating. I had depression, fear, anxiety – comfort eating was the most prominent factor of them all.
“A lot of my bullying was during my school years however I still heard daily comments from strangers, colleagues and those around me; those are the ones that tend to stick.
“The anxiety and voices in my head would always have me listening out for what people had to say, looks they shared, fingers pointed, so I was always on high alert, especially as judgment was my deepest fear.
“My nickname at school for years was Bob. A year-and-a-half later I found out that this meant B.O. (body odour) Boy, which deeply upset me.
“I knew personal hygiene was an issue and would often shower twice a day at least, but clearly it wasn’t enough.
“Other comments included; ‘he’s just the fat one’, ‘look at him jiggle as he moves’, ‘that is just disgusting, his family must be so disappointed’, ‘I can’t be around him, just looking at him makes me sick’.
“But the ones that stuck the most were about love, ‘who would ever want to be with that’. Love is something I have always wanted to find so these kinds of comments destroyed me inside.
“I was saddened and disgusted at the sight of myself, I would avoid photos as best as I could, even mirrors were the enemy, all because I knew if I saw myself I would just get upset.
“The feeling was physically hard as well as emotionally; I struggled to move, couldn’t walk up a single flight of stairs without breaking a sweat, awful breathing and back pain, and I was mortified.”
It took a trip to a Peppa Pig theme park for Ryan to make the ultimate change to his lifestyle and it was his niece that really motivated him to lose the weight.
“It was Ruby’s fourth birthday and I wanted her to have the best of days, I loved her like my own because I had allowed myself to believe that I would never have a family,” Ryan said.
“So, I drove her, her mum and dad, and my mum to Paulton’s Park – Peppa Pig World. I was completely out of my comfort zone and my heart was pounding when we were walking through the gates.
“I would be carefully analysing the attraction to see how likely it was for me to get on and feared every time I took a step forward and tried.
“I was so uncomfortable, and already I could see people looking and pointing at me and my anxiety really started to kick in, but I swallowed it for the sake of Ruby and continued on with a brave face.
“But soon my fears became a reality. Queuing for that ride was the longest wait I have ever encountered, heart pacing, sticky palms, sweat dripping and still conscious of people around me.
“I finally took a seat on the ride and pulled the harness down and couldn’t get it to click. Two employees came over and were vigorously trying to force it down however they didn’t succeed and had to ask me to leave the attraction.
“The walk off the ride felt longer that the queue itself as I had to walk past everyone, I could hear sniggers, see eyes following but I kept my head down and kept moving.
“I was mortified, my family too as they could see how it had upset me, and the remainder of the day was of a very low mood.
“This was the moment that I started to think, that for once in my life, I do want to be able to enjoy things like this without a worry and take a family of my own out for days as such.”
In September 2016, Ryan decided to join Slimming World which helped him shed the weight and says that his confidence has sky-rocketed. He is now in a relationship with a woman he met over Instagram called Shani.
“I had admitted to myself that this time round things needed to be different and that I was going to need help, so in September, I took a scary step through the doors of my local Slimming World group,” Ryan said.
“The plan there saw me through to my success, the eating plan was simple, no calorie counting, no depriving, no starvation.
“I was in awe. I actually ate more on the plan than I did previously, however, I indulged in healthy eating, making smart swaps and making it a lifestyle change rather than a diet.
“Losing weight has had a huge impact on my life, I lost my drive for film because I wanted to live rather than hide behind a screen, so in turn my career aspects have altered, and I now want to help others feel as amazing as I do now.
“My mental health issues have all disappeared and my confidence has rocketed. Physical health issues have also gone, fitness levels risen to being massively active from doing nothing at all.
“I admit that although I am now at a happy weight, I do still have moments when I get self-conscious about my loose skin. But my skin is just a reminder of the amazing journey I have been on.
“Dating became easier because I wasn’t trying to lie about who I was or pretend to be someone I’m not, I am happy with who I am, so here is everything; the good the bad the ugly.
“I find that I get more attention now, but I don’t believe that’s because of the way I look now but more so because of my confidence and I find that flattering. In the recent summer I met a lovely lady through Instagram, Shani, and we have since become an item.
“Shani has helped me greatly with my confidence. I was so used to receiving insults that it had become difficult for me to accept any sort of compliment and appreciate the man I have become.
“Shani makes me feel incredible about myself and my own abilities and overall makes me a stronger version of myself. She believes in me so much that I now believe in myself more than I ever have done before.
“I’ve had it happen a couple of times where I’ve been speaking to people from my past that I’d known for over six years, face to face, and then they ask who I am or ‘do I know you’.
“Ironically, I came across a bully from high school at a Slimming World group even more ironically the bully’s mother was the consultant, unbeknownst to me prior.
“This was the person that made me feel worthless, the one that upset me more than anyone else. This happened about a year ago when I had lost around nine-stone.
“My heart was racing, but I kept my head held high because I was proud. I approached him, and he clearly didn’t recognise me.
“I wanted to be the bigger man and let bygones be bygones. I shook his hand and asked him how he had been. Short and simple, but it was powerful and made me feel invincible.”
To find your nearest Slimming World group, call 0344 897 8000 or log on to: www.slimmingworld.co.uk